Overwork Article Cover Image by Ekalavya Hansaj for Thrive Global
Overwork Article Cover Image by Ekalavya Hansaj for Thrive Global

Overworking for decades had the benefit of being something employees and companies usually considered as a sign of being worthwhile. Companies for decades have continued disregarding the changes in modern day working style and its stress. Competition by the second has made the lives of employees hardest which in turn have resulted in increase of social problems associated with workplace stress.

What is overworking?

“Overwork occurs when longer hours per day, week, or year begin to have deleterious effects on the individual, family, community and economy.  The line between work and overwork is crossed when fatigue and stress build up, often cumulatively, leading to a greater risk of mistakes, accidents, injuries, health problems, reduced quality of workmanship, and diminished productivity per hour worked.”

The practice of overwork results in competitive advantage for the employees as well as the management. However, it also results to health determent in the longer run.

I would like to call overwork as a “Mentally Suicidal Zone”. Its just like “…having too much to do, not enough time to perform required tasks, not enough resources to do the work well.

Common Approach towards Overwork

Common perceptions about overwork vary from person to person. These perceptions about overwork are decisively important as every working individual has a different reaction towards overwork. It differs for every working employee based on their needs, grievances, wishes, lifestyle and expectations from their organization. Modern day approach towards overwork is beneficial in shorter terms and vice versa.

I believe in work, hard work, and long hours of work. Men do not breakdown from overwork, but from worry and dissipation.

Charles Evans Hughes

“While we normally equate long hours at work with commitment, long hours are actually much more strongly correlated with increased risk for burnout – and burnout brings with it increased medical costs and lost productivity.

How many work hours are too many?

Most of the employees work in shifts. The companies have gone global in order to sustain themselves in the market and to keep their goodwill intact in the eyes of their clients. The workplace environment has changed drastically and as a result of it employees are asked to stretch more often.

The work culture and shift duration varies geographically as well as demographically. US workers take 14 vacation days while their European counterparts average approximately 33

Murphy and Zagorski, 2005

“Excessive working hours continue to be a serious problem facing individuals, their families, communities and businesses. Despite widespread recognition of the problem of overwork for more than a decade, the trend in hours worked continues upward. Large majorities of employees are articulating concern that their hours are too long. Coupled with the ongoing increase in workloads faced by many employees, stress and overload are a persistent challenge faced by companies.”

“Three-quarters of men and women at every life stage are working more hours than they would prefer to work.”

Causes of Overwork in Employees

Some of them are organizational while others are personal causes.

Organizational causes are the ones caused due to changes taking place in its external as well as internal environment. Whereas, personal causes are more of self centered issues in the lives of employees.

There are a number of reasons that contribute to this current burgeoning issue. One of the major reasons behind overwork is the globalization of economies wherein everything that employees and their organizations do is customer specific.

The globalization of economies have led to job insecurity in the employees. As a result of this employees have started working for the longest hours in order to retain their jobs. Reduction in administrative support is another prominent reason behind the sudden rise of overworking tendency among the employees.

I personally that some parts of the employee section work overtime in order to show their loyalty and long term association. Most of the companies reward their employees monetarily on account of their extra efforts in the job. The employees work overtime in order to make as much money as they could.

Further, highly motivated employees want to move up the ladder so they invest the highest amount of hours in their job. High ambitions and their own sense of excellence in the job have led to the growing trend of overwork in the employees.

“I’m sure many of you are working more than forty hours per week. Recent layoffs have thrust huge amounts of work on employees who got to keep their jobs. In addition, survivors of layoffs are “afraid of losing their jobs and are therefore working harder and longer hours to prove their worth”.

Impacts of Overwork

Overworking is a major issue according to most of the employees. The worst impact of overwork is on health. There have been thousands of cases where overworking caused work-related illnesses. Impacts on health include symptoms like headaches, fatigue, extreme tiredness, regular sleepiness, continuous irritability, and even panic attacks.

As a result of overwork, challenges posed to the employees are not enjoyed by them. Impacts due to higher workload seem to affect the families of the employees as well. The workload issue has far reaching negative consequences than the one visible to our eyes.

Other major impacts of overwork are higher stress levels and burnout, increase in health maintenance costs, decrease in organizational productivity, volunteerism and time for society that is friends and family members. Motivation levels of the employees have fallen down drastically. The practice of overwork is like “never to put ourselves above company loyalties” and being treated as company slaves. This has led to lower turnover of employees and financial crisis as well.

In some of the exceptional cases where the employees are treated as slaves, extra workload has caused heart failure and brain hemorrhages. Longer hours at the work also cause sleep deprivation. Employees are deprived of meaningful family interaction or a social life.

Work-Family Conflict

Work conflict is defined as the extent to which an individual experiences incompatible role pressures within the work domain, and family conflict is defined as the extent to which an individual experiences incompatible role pressures within the family domain. In other words work family conflicts are the roles through which an individual level is measured.

The fact that work and family are two different physical models is another reason for conflict. The role senders at both the places (work & family) are different so it is difficult for the employees to avoid conflicts with their seniors or spouse and children.

Lack of interaction and incompatible expectations are other contributors to the family conflict. I have presented a graph below mentioning the important factors of life. Every factor needs to be given their share of time and importance in order to avoid work family conflict.

Take care of these important aspects of life to maintain a balanced work-life

What is balanced life?

“Balance is a journey and not a destination”. “Balance is enjoying life, enjoying work, spending time with family and friends, keeping healthy, playing, maintaining spirituality, and giving back to the community.” Utmost care should be taken in order to attain balance as it’s neither a magical formula nor an automatic equilibrium between work and private life.

Balance isn’t a static outcome. It keeps on changing over periods of time in one’s life. It also depends on the external and the internal factors in one’s life. The concept of balance is entirely personal.

Is it really difficult to have  a balanced life?

Human beings struggle a lot to balance their lives. Is it because work-holism is considered a virtue these days or environment at the workplace has changed so competitively or have our expectations changed?

“Everything has been figured out except how to live a balanced life”.

Jean Paul Sartre

Finding time is the biggest hurdle in order to have a balanced life. It’s is neither easy to create a balanced life nor to maintain it. Balanced life is desired by every human and it’s obtainable. Balanced life comes along with some unwilling compromises. Living with balance is more tiring and more like an overworked pack-horse.

In order to attend balance, I would advise shifting the attention from “Outer-directed” to the “Inner-directed” world.

Instead of focusing on exclusive accomplishments of others, human beings need to concentrate on things that can make them a happier and an authentic person. Inner fundamental goals have to be focused upon in order to understand what is really important to them. Reorder and relearn priorities.

Are the overworking employees too ambitious to have a balanced life?

Most of the times steps taken to achieve a balanced life along with career success seems to be going Hayward in another direction. Men and women who value their home lives constantly struggle a lot with issues of balance. But choices have to be made on a daily basis. These choices represent daily opportunities to set priorities. Whilst setting the priorities, utmost care needs to be taken in order to maintain a balance between the work-related and personal activities.

“The juggling of career ambitions with a home life involves dozens of disquieting decisions. Frequently, knowledge of our Personal Priorities is of little value in these conditions because for the ambitious, success at work is truly important. It might be expressed as “to the top” or “Achieving goals or Being satisfied with my career”or even“believe my work counts.”

All the notions mentioned above translate to the fact that modern employees strive to achieve most and master the field they have chosen. Ambitious employees who want balance soon learn that they can’t make everybody happy. “N” number of compromises and trade-offs are required to maintain a balance during the career fulfillment periods.

Time, relationships, where you live and work, and values are not currencies reserved exclusively for the highly ambitious. Subtly or directly, anyone employed in the modern workplace is asked to make trade-offs in each of these categories.

How to Maintain Work Society Balance?

Maintaining balance is the key to professional and personal success. Gone are the days when the profession of employees was their most important identity. There is lot more to life than just work. Employees have now started developing elusive balance and are learning to live In sync.

In order to maintain balance, employees now have a clear vision and understanding of what they want. Employees pursue goals that help them realize their dreams. Employees have adapted themselves practically into the mainstreams of life and this has helped them optimize their personal powers. 


This method helps the employees to focus their time and energy on the most important aspects of their life and work. The review of goals keep the employees focused towards their important aspects.


Employees can have a balanced life by maintaining a positive thinking towards their responsibilities and being innovative towards their family and work.


“Assertiveness helps you to align your thoughts, communications and actions.” Being assertive helps in fulfillment of needs and desired aspects of life. This helps in keeping focused and happy as the employees are able to fulfill their commitments.


“Work Smarter” in order to maintain a balanced life while at work or meeting business goals.


Employees should regularly analyze the tasks they perform and be able to distinguish between the vital and the disposable. They should make adjustments that will their ease work pressure without significant sacrifice of quality. Vacations and Sick Time should be taken if needed. Employees should access the role-fit between their work and personal life. Setting firm boundaries between work and non-work time is also an advisable option. Interruptions and distractions should be minimized by the individuals. Individuals should insist that they are treated with respect and fairness.


Managers need to rethink the division and workflow of labor and find out ways to achieve results without overtaxing the resources. Cross-training as both a developmental and coverage strategy is another better option. Further, managers can also provide learning and retraining opportunities to their associates.  Giving the employees some choice over their work and control of their work schedule isn’t a bad recommendation either. Employees can really benefit themselves by assessing the role-fit between the job of his employees and their personal need. They should ask employees for input about management decisions. Focus should be laid on outcomes and not face time value of the employees. Other viable options are to support and encourage vacations, thank associates and recognize them publicly. Managers should also ask the employees about their workload.


Teams need to set realistic work plans in order to determine expectations about how accessible members need to be. Every attempt should be made to reduce low value work. The team members should develop boundaries about interruptions and create solutions that meet employee, team and business needs. Teams should establish flexible ways to get work done with the major focus on outcomes.


Organizations should reward leaders that effectively manage human resources and their own time toward the achievement of goals. They should disincent unproductive management behavior that encourages overwork. Performance-based culture needs to be embraced. Articulation of clear organizational values and creation of culture flexibility are also very good options. Effective ways should be established by the organizations to resolve conflicts.


Deciding to ask employees to overwork is a rather easy task for the organizations. But unfortunately, even after the extra workload hours, problems do not seem to perish. Especially in those organizations where the overtime work hours are unpaid, employers do not make a second thought in asking their employees to overwork.

“After the employees overwork, it requires a very high amount of effort, rewards, strong metrics, communications and an excellent counseling system to maintain a profitable turnover and productivity.”

What is your work in the world going to be? What will be your works? These are not fundamentally questions about jobs and pay, but questions about life.

Ekalavya Hansaj || Author – Jailbird

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